Parramatta Eels v Penrith Panthers
The battle of the west. Always a fierce rivalry.
Every match is tightly contested match that usually comes down to the last couple of possessions.
Easily the best game of the round because of the vast amount of salivating matchups across the board.
Both teams have key players back.
For the Eels, their enforcer Nathan Brown joins the already strong Eels pack and Nathan Cleary will re-join Luai in the halves.
One of Penrith’s main advantages is the strength of their bench.
Having Matt Burton, Zane Tetevano and Moses Leota coming on allows Penrith to maintain good production in the forward pack for the full eighty.
The Eels, however, can tear apart any team with their halves combination.
Dylan Brown and Moses are a deadly combo and for the Eels to win, they will have to rely on these two to organise their attack and execute repeat sets.
Unlike past Penrith teams, they are much more composed and clinical on attack.
Panthers are first in post contact meters, first in run meters and third in set completion.
The Panthers have small amounts of throw away sets because of the good running from their outside backs which provides Penrith with great field position most sets.
This can be correlated to the Panthers fast play the ball, as the panthers average 3.28 seconds compared to the Eels 3.81 seconds.
This will be a close game and I think the number of 5.5 is too big and also slightly disrespectful for the third ranked Panthers.
PANTHERS ARE WE READY READY!
Newcastle Knights v Melbourne Storm
I’m not falling for this Knights team yet. People have already labelled them as a team they can make a deep push in the finals.
This is the game for the Knights to prove it and if they win, I will start to consider them a legitimate threat.
The Knights see no key changes to their team.
For the Storm, Ryley Jacks will replace the injured Jahrome Hughes at halfback and Nelson Asofa-Solomona re-joins the team.
The Storm have been so successful in past years because of how effective they were at slowing down the play the ball.
Wrestling was the core of the teams strategy, but now with the new rule changes that encourage a faster paced game, they will have to be able to change and adapt.
Since the break, the Storm have been sloppy and are making bad errors.
They lead the NRL in errors and have a set completion of 73% (13th in NRL) .
The Knights are an attack first team and this is reflected through them leading the NRL in points and tries.
Ponga put on a clinic last week against the Raiders and reminded everyone that he is one of the best players in the NRL.
Without Ponga, this Knights team loses a lot of explosiveness and spice on attack.
Bellamy will have to have game plan to slow down Ponga and reduce his production. DON’T FALL FOR THE GOOSEY
Even with the Storm playing poorly, they are still fifth on the ladder.
This is a ‘get right’ game for the Storm, who should be able to outplay a young Knights team.
Wests Tigers v Canberra Raiders
Both teams will wish round four never happened.
The Tigers allowed the Titans to score 28 points in a loss and the Raiders were blown out by the Knights.
The Tigers dealt with this loss by axing their veteran Benji Marshall making room for Josh Reynolds.
Benji has carried the Tigers in attack especially when attacking in the twenty.
Reynolds is a good player, but losing Benji creates a void in a leadership role and a viable attacking threat.
However, Reynolds will offer better and more consistent defence which was lacking in the Titans loss.
The Raiders have no changes and are at full strength.
The Raiders have an advantage at every position, and from a player point of view, have a wide array of talent that far outweighs the Tigers.
Harry Grant has been one of the Tigers best players and will be interesting to see the clash between him and Hodgson.
Both players will be extremely active around the ruck, especially scooting as both teams rank first and second in dummy half runs.
A key moment that made me bet on this game was that after the Raiders loss, the team immediately huddled up and Josh Hodgson was speaking to the entire team straight after the final whistle.
The team knows that they played poorly and want to resurrect their bad performance by dominating a rattled tigers team.
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